Categotry Archives: Meanderings (look it up)

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The Hunger for More

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Categories: Meanderings (look it up), Things that Will Probably Get Me In Trouble

In a famous Dickens novel, a young orphan, Oliver Twist, has just been transferred from the orphanage to a work house. Shortly after his arrival, he is turned out of the work house.
His crime? He went up and asked for seconds at mealtime. He wanted more.

That one scene in the book could provide plenty of raw material for several rather poignant blog posts. 🙂 However, for the moment, I’ve been thinking (rather randomly, not prompted by anything in particular) about man’s hunger for “more” in general. It seems like most of us have this trait. It expresses itself in many different ways, and we use a lot of different terms to describe it, with both positive and negative connotations (e.g., passion, dissatisfaction, obsession, drive). But this urge is too prevalent in mankind for us not to at least wonder if this hunger we have for more (whatever “more” represents) is really inherent to our nature.

Regardless of why we have this drive for more, it seems to be a double-edged sword of sorts. It can get us into a lot of trouble…but it can also be the very thing that propels us to great accomplishments. For that reason, it’s difficult to make a case either way as to whether our hunger for more is a good thing or a bad thing. It really seems to depend on the context, and even then there can be some mixture.
Let’s illustrate this a bit. Let’s imagine someone whose list of accomplishments is long and impressive. He/she has built great buildings, or composed beautiful symphonies, or won the Nobel prize for scientific research–maybe even dabbling successfully in several disciplines. That kind of thing doesn’t just “happen” to a person; it requires work, commitment, and perseverance to achieve those kinds of accolades. We could say that a hunger for more was what moved that person forward–a healthy dissatisfaction with the status quo, and a desire to do something about it. This is a very positive application of a drive for more.
But that very same drive that brought the person into success can also be a sort of curse. Perhaps that person is haunted by a voice of the past, or a deep trauma, and the long list of accomplishments brings that person no sense of satisfaction–which is why there must always be another accomplishment. That person does many good things, but like a classic overachiever, can never stop and rest. The hunger for more is in overdrive, and can ultimately drive that person into depression, illness, or an early grave.
Then there are those people for whom the hunger for more translates to little more than an insatiable lust, and they try to fill the hunger with a long line of self-indulgences: drugs, alcohol, food, sex, etc. This can happen not only for those with a lazy streak or a low moral compass, but also for people who have been successful. An overachiever with no constructive project in front of them can find their drive for more leading them into self-destructive activities. Many stories have been written about the classic American male who “has it all”–a fine wife, great job, great kids, lots of toys, and plenty of leisure time–who runs off and has an affair and loses everything. We marvel at why that person would throw it all away. This story line is common because it is common with us. We might have it all–but we still are unsatisfied. We want more.
I suggested earlier that the hunger for more is an inherent characteristic among us–something we all have. Yet we all know exceptions. Most of us know someone with loads of potential who seems to be completely passive and indifferent–no passion whatsoever. Then there are whole cultures that strongly discourage and suppress the longing for more: your place is your place, and you should never try to move past it. I find that religion in general has this effect, whether religious Christianity or other religions. In these cases, a person’s longing for more might be a very healthy, positive thing–but it is inevitably going to get that person in trouble with the powers that be. For me–I can really relate to Oliver Twist. My hunger for more (more of God, more authenticity in faith and the church) has gotten me into hot water with plenty of people, and has even gotten me turned out of some places.
This is strictly opinion and conjecture, but I still believe that even though many people seem “satisfied” to the point that they do not press on for something better, this hunger for more is something inherent in mankind. I personally believe it takes some sort of external force (e.g., personal hardship/trauma/abuse, or an oppressive culture) to suppress that hunger in us. I think when that happens, even though we might seem okay on the outside, we become a shadow of what we could be.
This urge of ours, as I said, can both spur us on to greatness or get us into trouble. One might even conclude that our hunger for more is actually dangerous. But that does not make it bad.
There is a belief in Hebraic/Jewish thought that “sin” is simply a result of misguided, misdirected passion. While many Christians seem to lean toward the belief that passion in general is a part of our sin nature that should be “suppressed” or “crucified,” Jewish thought is that our passions are God-given, and simply need to be directed toward God rather than away from Him. I understand the concept of self-denial in the New Testament, but I tend to think we’ve over-interpreted this idea. I don’t think God intended self-denial or death-to-self to mean a suppressing of natural passions He built into us; I think it has more to do with crucifying the selfishness within us that is definitely a root of sin. In other words–I think this is an area where the Hebrews have it right. The battle each of us fight over our sin nature is much better fought, I think, by aiming our passions in a more life-giving direction, rather than trying to shut them down.
So all this rambling is to say that I think our hunger for more is a good thing, because I think God created it in us. We simply don’t seem to reach our full potential without it. I think it is one of those things that God created good that the enemy tries to hijack and corrupt for evil. Yes, it can be difficult to handle, it can be painful, it can get us into trouble. But I think the healthiest thing we can do with it is not to shut it off, but to aim it in positive directions. If our hunger for more propels us toward God, toward significance, toward making a positive difference–it’s definitely a good thing.
That’s what I think, anyway. 🙂

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Coming as Babies

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Categories: changing mindsets, food for thought, Meanderings (look it up), moments of truth

I’ve been spending a bit of time the past couple of days thinking about mission, and what it means–what it looks like–to be missional. Particularly, I’ve been asking God, basically, “What next?” We’ve been getting settled in this new place for a year and a half, and I still have this desire to do some sort of missional work in the creative community–but I’ve been soul searching about the right approach, what the next steps are (if any). I’ve been trying to find words to verbalize things felt deep in the soul, where people could maybe understand them. And frankly, I’ve felt a little lost–not in the sense of losing faith, but in the sense of trying to think about mission outside the boundaries of traditional church, when all I’ve done previously has happened within those boundaries.
Just this morning, I think something really has registered with me that’s going to deeply inform our direction in the days ahead. It’s not a new concept, but it’s like it “clicked” with me–like someone switched on a light. An “a-ha” moment.
Okay, you get the idea. 🙂
One thing I’ve been trying to do is get back to the basics of mission, particularly the mission of Christ. If Jesus set an example for us to follow–and I believe He did–then we can learn the correct approach to mission by looking at what He did as well as what He taught.
So how did Jesus approach His mission? He became one of us.
Jesus did not come to earth in a blaze of glory, riding on a white horse, His deity apparent all over the place. (That would be the SECOND coming, and that hasn’t happened at press time.) Instead, as the Bible indicates, He laid down His heavenly glory and took the form of a man. A regular human being, just like us. We call this the “incarnation.” The incarnational approach to mission has already been talked about a lot in missional circles, and like I said, I’m familiar with it and seek to embrace it.
But there’s more. You see, Jesus came as a man–but not as a grown man. He didn’t launch His mission as the self-proclaimed expert of all things spiritual. He came into this world the same way we all do–as a baby. A helpless, vulnerable, non-potty-trained baby. He didn’t come with all the answers–that came later. Jesus came to us needy. He came to us needing to be fed, changed, nurtured, loved, trained–all that stuff that kids need in order to grow.
Talk about humbling oneself.
My family and I have been immersing ourselves in the local creative community pretty much since we got here, because we understood the necessity of becoming part of the existing community. What I hadn’t really seen before now–but God did, and has already been orchestrating–is that we are coming as babies. We’re not coming with the answers; we’re coming with needs.
I probably see this playing out most right now with The Wild One. She has totally laid down her personal aspirations for “ministry” probably more than I have–she has been able to totally empty herself. The artistic circle she found herself in saw her not as a pastor or spiritual expert, but as someone who is hungry to learn art–who has always wanted to do it, but never had the chance or the resources, and who has great potential. As a result, they’ve totally taken her under their wing and begun to teach her to paint–and she’s making great progress. And because this group loves the arts in general, and because they are already so open, they’ve adopted the rest of our family right along with her. We’re not on the giving end–not right now. We’re the needy ones. We’re the babies.
I can now see this setting up the same way with the music scene. I’ve developed a rapport with this music community by covering the local scene as a freelance writer, and I’ve made a lot of friends. But the truth is, while I do know a few things about how to encourage young artists, in order to do what I really want to do in music–I’m going to have to become the baby. I’m going to have to ask people half my age how to go about booking shows, who to talk to about getting publishing deals, and so on. I may have to collaborate with others in order to polish my songwriting skills and aim them in a new direction. I’m not really the expert here–I’m the needy one.
I’m beginning to see that at least in our case, to be truly incarnational in our approach requires us to become as infants in this community–not just to be one of them, but to grow up as one of them. And with this fresh understanding of things, I actually have a new perspective on the past 10 years of our lives.
There’s a place in the Bible where it talks about Jesus emptying Himself in order to come to earth as a man. Jesus stripped Himself of His heavenly glory in order to embark on this mission. I don’t know how that felt for Him–but I do know some of what it feels like to be stripped. The entire time we lived in Tulsa, we were being stripped. We obviously weren’t being stripped of heavenly glory or deity (we never had those things). But we were being stripped of our pastoral or clerical prestige, so to speak. We were also being stripped of mindsets, of wrong assumptions, of wrong motives, and pretty much of everything we thought “ministry” was. By the time we got here to Denver, we were almost completely deconstructed and undone. Starting over–as babies.
It sure looks like God has been setting us up.
This whole theme about becoming as a child has deep ramifications, not just in mission, but in other ways as well. Didn’t Jesus repeatedly say that we need to come to the Father as little children? This post could get really long rambling about that–so I’ll save that for another time. But this understanding has really caused a lot of the fog to clear for me. It’s showing me that it’s okay, even necessary, to step into this mission not as the expert, but as the student. It’s showing me that it’s okay, even necessary, to embrace small beginnings. I think God has a long-term plan here, and apparently we’ve been within that plan for awhile now.
On a personal level, I think I’ve struggled for a long time with my deconstruction. Although I’ve definitely been thankful for the sense of freedom (and wouldn’t ever want to go back into bondage), I also have felt such a sense of loss because at the very least I had a strong sense of direction, and when things dismantled, I felt there was nothing to replace what I’d had. I think I’m finally going to be okay with that now. I think I can fully embrace this time and place, knowing that the previous stripping was necessary in order to step into this mission in the right way.
Jesus came to us as a baby, and He changed the world. I believe that if I embrace the same idea, enter this mission as a baby, and have patience with the process, I can at least make a positive difference.
Which is pretty much all I wanted in the first place.

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God Doesn’t Have to Explain Himself

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Categories: food for thought, Meanderings (look it up)

“Why?”

That’s one of the first questions we learn to ask as children. You can usually tell when a kid has first discovered this question, because that kid will follow you around and ask it all the time.
“Why? Why? Why?”
That being the case, I suppose it’s natural for us to want to know why. When something bad happens that rocks our world, when dilemmas come up for which there are no easy answers, we have this nagging need to understand the purpose behind it all. Since this is obviously in our nature, you’d think that God would be going out of His way to answer this one for us–especially when our need to know “why” stems from a tragedy, or trauma, or something else that causes us pain.
But He doesn’t always. He doesn’t always tell us why.
Have you ever noticed that God never seems to be in a big hurry to defend His reputation? As someone who is practically obsessive-compulsive over my need to be understood, at times I find it quite annoying that God doesn’t have the same problem. He never seems to get ruffled when He gets blamed for bad things happening, or when He is caricatured as something He is not, or even when He is mocked. I get upset sometimes that God doesn’t feel the need to prove Himself to people who are genuinely questioning His existence. I’m like, “God, why don’t you show that person what you showed me?” It kind of feels like that singing frog in the cartoon who only sings when the one guy is around. (Not disrespecting God by comparing Him to a singing frog, but simply comparing the feeling, you understand.)
But here’s the thing. If He is God, and we are not, then God isn’t under a mandate to explain Himself. God is not in our debt, and He owes us nothing. Now, in saying that, it isn’t to say that God hasn’t already gone to great lengths to make Himself known. That’s why we have a Bible. That’s why even today, countless miracles are still recorded all over the world. Even nature itself testifies of Him. It’s just to say that the answer to “why” isn’t an answer we are automatically entitled to know. That said, offhand, I can think of at least three possible explanations for why we don’t always get an answer to “why.”
First–this is speculation and personal testimony, but in my own spiritual journey and experience, I’ve discovered that sometimes my “whys” get answered years down the road, long after I’ve asked the question. When the question gets answered, it’s an “a-ha” moment, and not only do I realize why, but I realize why God didn’t answer the question when I first asked it. I realize that only after some maturity and further experience could I even have understood the answer. I think sometimes that’s why God doesn’t always answer right away–because we asked a question for which we had no grid to appreciate the answer, and He must first grow us to a point where we can handle the answer.
Second–there are still other times when the answer to “why” just never comes–perhaps because in this life, we simply aren’t equipped to understand. Sometimes the answer to “why” can’t be understood by people who are “seeing through a glass darkly” (1 Cor. 13), and it’s going to take seeing Him face to face in the next life before the answer is clear.
And third–there is this troubling thing that Jesus said over and over in the Bible. He said it as a conclusion to many of His parables, and He said it in the “letters to the churches” in the Revelation to John: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” This is troubling because it suggests that sometimes we are not pre-disposed to hear. Sometimes God speaks and we just don’t get it; other times, I think, God doesn’t speak because knowing the hearts of men, He knows who has ears to hear Him, and who does not.
I’m nobody’s judge, so I have no ability to discern who has ears to hear. I only know I desire to be one of those people who has ears to hear. And for me, that starts with a heart approach that can ask God to explain Himself, but does not demand it as though it were my right. If I don’t get an answer to “why”, I don’t want it to be because my heart was not in a position to listen.
In contrast to the troubling “ears to hear” thing in the Bible, there is also a promise that we will seek Him and find Him when we search for Him with all our heart. (Jer. 29) I personally think this doesn’t just mean we seek Him intensely–I think it suggests a heart that is pre-disposed toward Him, a heart that leans toward trust as opposed to demanding proof. I think it is this kind of a heart that gives us ears to hear.
I guess what I’m saying by all this rambling is that while God doesn’t have to explain Himself, and while there are some “whys” that may never be answered in this life, there are some things He gladly reveals to those whose hearts are turned toward Him. By that, I mean those who will love Him even if He never answers their “whys”, because they trust Him with their unknowns. God doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to answer those who demand an explanation, but He does seem to be willing to reveal more of Himself when He sees a heart that truly longs for Him.
So while I’ve asked some “whys” for which I may never get an answer, and some “whys” I am not ready to handle yet–at the very least, I want to be a person who trusts God with my unanswered questions, a person who gives Him the benefit of my own doubts. A person who believes that God has my best interests at heart, even if He doesn’t always tell me why. And hopefully, a person who has ears to hear, so when He does speak, I’m in a position to listen.

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What’s More Important

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Categories: church, Meanderings (look it up), moments of truth


I think that at the heart of my journey out of institutional forms of church is a true desire to focus on what really matters–the heart and soul of my faith, the things that really make this engine run, so to speak. I think this desire has really set my course for many years. And as I gradually became less and less focused on the institutions surrounding Christianity, and more focused on the heart of faith, I began to see just how many times and in how many ways I’d majored on the minors–focused so much energy and placed so much importance on things that really weren’t all that important in the greater scheme of things.

What’s bad about that is that when you put all your attention on things that aren’t that important, you end up neglecting the more important things. It’s so easy get so consumed with getting everything right in the meeting, or keeping everyone happy in the community, that we forget about things like doing good to others, or building the character of Christ in ourselves, or encouraging our brothers and sisters in their own lives. Not that that stuff didn’t happen–but given the fact that all the other baggage was attached, it sometimes got lost in the shuffle.
Now that all those pressures are off, it’s like in so many ways the fog has cleared, and it’s easier to see from moment to moment what is more important–not just in the doings of church, but in the walk of faith, in general.
  • Is it more important to stage a “successful” event, or is it more important that people draw closer to God within the event?
  • Is it more important to be “right” (that is, to win the argument), or is it more important to live at peace?
  • Is it more important to follow procedure, or is it more important to be led by the Spirit?
  • Is it more important to use convincing words to describe your faith, or is it more important to demonstrate that faith through consistent action?
  • Is it more important to defend your rights, or is it more important to guard your heart?
  • Is it more important to busy ourselves with our preparations, or is it more important to sit at His feet? (Luke 10:38-42)
These, and just a few others, are things that are far more clear to me now that I am no longer carrying the burden of an institution on my own shoulders. I can now see that the people of the Church are a higher priority than the events and activities of the “church”, and I can make better choices with that priority in place. For example, during the entire 18 months I was helping with worship at my friends’ church plant, to the extent that I was involved in leadership decisions, I found that I consistently chose in favor of the people over the presentation–a total “180” for me from a few years ago.
I guess I’m pondering this because in the recovery process from getting flooded out last week, I’m also faced with some decisions regarding the apartment management company and what I feel they are responsible for–and to what extent I want to fight for it. I am still riled up when I feel something is unjust, or when I feel a sense of loss…but where in times past the need to protect myself and my “stuff” would utterly consume me, I have a different perspective nowadays. I realize that above all else, I need to guard my own soul, and that no fight for my “rights” is worth nursing animosity in my heart or jeopardizing my spiritual well-being. Considering that I have suffered a great deal of loss in so many ways in my life, and considering that loss is a bit of a sore spot with me–I think that’s progress. 🙂
I believe this change in perspective for me is due in part to my clearer perspective as a “deconstructed” Christian. Because my vision is no longer clouded with things that aren’t that important, I am able to see more clearly what’s more important. That’s what I think, anyway. 🙂

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Overall Things Are Quite Well, Thanks for Asking

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Categories: Meanderings (look it up)

My brain feels kind of fried right now. For the past couple of months a major writing assignment has required most of my mental energy, so none of my blogs have been seeing a lot of activity. I look forward to Sunday mornings as a dedicated time to write here, but I’m sitting here sort of in la-la land. It isn’t that there isn’t stuff on my mind–the conversation from the previous blog post still actually weighs pretty heavily on my soul, but that’s not something I want to address with my brain only running on two cylinders. Besides, on that issue, right now it’s probably more of a time to listen than to talk, anyhow. So all this aimless rambling is to say that I really don’t have anything profound to discuss right now. 🙂 So I’ll redeem the moment by just giving a quick update.

Doing quite well overall. Thanks for asking. 🙂
Seriously…besides having my nose to the grindstone with the aforementioned writing assignment (for at least one more week)… when I look at my world right now, things are actually coming into place. Not that we’re without problems (is anyone, really?), but I think our family is in a good place overall, and on a good path. I think that it really is about more than just changing our location (although that has had a lot to do with it)–it’s also about changing our outlook. Each person in our family (myself, The Wild One and The Director) has kind of gone through the same process of discovery. When we strive for the day-to-day survival and make that our full focus, we end up almost like a hamster on an exercise wheel–putting out a lot of energy but going nowhere in particular. But when we start putting our attention on the bigger picture, the passions God has placed in our hearts, and what we want to do with those dreams, we start making decisions with those things in mind, not just on what to get us by in the moment–and that starts putting traction underneath our feet, so our energy actually starts taking us somewhere. I think that’s what I feel that’s different for us in this season. Things don’t always move as fast as I want them to, but I feel like there is traction under our feet. The things we’re doing, the things we’re choosing to do, are actually taking us someplace–they have significance for the future, and they’re moving us forward.
And the really cool thing about the process is that we’re seeing divine intervention with it. It’s like once we made the commitment to change our lives to pursue our God-given passions, God Himself began showing up with extra help we couldn’t have come up with on our own–opportunity handed to us, favor extended to us, extra money here and there, or something we need that just falls in our lap at the right moment. (Not as dramatic as manna from heaven, but sometimes it feels like that.)
The thing is, we didn’t see this kind of divine enablement until we made the commitment to move our lives in this direction. Were we waiting on God, or was He waiting on us? Makes me wonder. 🙂 That might be something else worth blogging about when my brain gets back to full capacity.
For that matter, looking back at what I’ve just written…maybe I had something cool to blog about, after all. 🙂

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More than the Mind (or, A Tale of Two Atheists)

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Categories: faith, Meanderings (look it up)

Not long ago, I was browsing through my Google Reader, kind of sorting through and unsubscribing from blogs that had become inactive, and I came across a “good-bye” post from a fellow blogger. He had been struggling with his faith for some time, and I’d tracked with him for awhile because he had expressed such honesty and candor about his doubts and his feelings. This post was several months old (I was admittedly behind in my reading), but he’d written a good-bye post to close out this particular blog because he had finally decided there was no God, and he was now an atheist. Since the blog was about struggling with faith, and for him there was no more faith to struggle with, he’d moved on to write a new blog about atheism.

When I read his words, my heart sank in grief, and I felt like I’d been kicked in the gut. I only know this person from his writing–I don’t think we’d ever even commented on one another’s blogs–but I felt this profound sense of loss, and I grieved for my brother who had struggled so long and had come to such a sad conclusion. I say “sad,” because when I look at my own life and struggles, I cannot imagine the amount of sorrow I would feel if I ever came to the conclusion that there had been no divine purpose in it all, that all this time I’d been muddling through on my own, that there was really no One watching out for me. Never mind the implications of the afterlife–even the idea of living in the here-and-now with no belief in God (especially if belief was once there) is a completely devastating thought to me. This is why I grieved so for my brother who had lost his faith.
I am acquainted with another atheist for whom I don’t feel the same sense of grief and loss; in fact, I feel a bit of hope. In hearing him talk about his own struggles with faith, it’s actually apparent that he wants to believe. He’s not a militant atheist, and is friendly to Christians, even admires them; he says that the only thing that really keeps him from crossing the line into faith is that he is so analytical that he can’t get his mind around the idea of the supernatural. In short, his logical mind gets in the way.
From my perspective, the biggest difference between these two atheists is the direction the struggle for faith is taking them. For the latter, I think his path is ultimately toward Christ; he would totally be a Christ-follower if he could just overcome the mental block, and I have hope that one day this will happen for him. For the former, he’s coming from the opposite direction–he once had faith (or at least belief), but got disillusioned, and for one reason or another his doubts were never satisfied. So he walked away from Christ.
But despite this difference, there is also, I think, one main similarity between these two atheists–that the struggle with faith seems to be almost exclusively in the mind. It’s the stuff that we can’t fully explain about God, the parts of Christianity that defy logic, even the apparent contradictions, that throw us for a loop. In our Age of Reason, we we are sort of conditioned to dismiss what we cannot prove, or only to accept what we can reasonably explain. I can understand that, and those who have read this blog for awhile know I spend a lot of time thinking and reasoning and grappling about issues of faith from a logical standpoint.
But here’s where I’m going with all this: by definition God (assuming He exists) must be bigger than our minds. If we could figure Him out, He wouldn’t really be God. Any attempt to fully grasp the divine using only logic and reason will ultimately be foiled; either we’ll settle on the wrong notions and deceive ourselves, or we’ll simply get frustrated and disillusioned when things don’t seem to add up. It isn’t because God doesn’t exist, but because we are finite people trying to discern an infinite Being. There are some camps within the church who realize this and have come to the erroneous conclusion that we should bypass the mind completely–and that’s where a lot of flakiness happens. I’m not suggesting we do that at all; our minds are a great gift, and we shouldn’t despise them. I’m only saying that for anyone to truly embrace God, I think it has to be on a level that goes beyond the scope of our minds. Jesus Himself gives us a clue that this is true when He said, “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24) He also mentioned being “born again”, and specified that we must be born both of water and of the spirit in order to see the kingdom of God. (John 3:5) This thing is more than mind; it is also spirit.
In my own journey, I’ve been disappointed, disillusioned, hurt, discouraged, and even traumatized. Lots of things I assumed to be true weren’t true at all. But one of the reasons I believe so strongly in God despite these struggles is that I guess I have a sense of the spirit beyond what my mind can explain. I have experienced the Person of God in ways that I simply cannot deny, despite my inability to explain it or even to convince others of its reality. I just know. Even this week I’ve had several occasions where I had impressions or insights beyond my ability to know, and I knew it to be the voice of God interacting with me. I couldn’t rationally prove it to you with words here on this blog, but neither do I feel the need to prove it. God, after all, isn’t an idea to be grasped, but a Person to be experienced–not on a flesh-and-blood level (at least this time), but as Spirit. Beyond my own disappointments, I guess I’ve always realized somehow, while I do use my mind to ask questions and grapple with issues of faith, I don’t rely on my mind as the sole litmus test for the legitimacy of God. I trust in the existence of God more than I trust in my own ability to figure Him out.
And that’s ultimately what real faith is all about, isn’t it? Faith is not being able to explain something, but rather it is the ability to trust when we cannot explain it.
If I’m being honest, I think perhaps one of the reasons stories of people losing their faith rattles me is that it makes me wonder if that could ever happen to me. If someone who was once convinced that God was with them and for them somehow found themselves doubting, then denying their faith, could I somehow be convinced at some point that there is no God? It’s a scary thought, indeed. I suppose what it does for me is makes me realize more than ever that my own sense of reason is not to be fully trusted, if for no other reason than that I do not have the big picture. I must always remember that God is bigger than my mind, that I must lean on Him (the Person of Christ) at a level beyond my own understanding.
One final thought to end the morning’s ramblings. I’m reminded of a scene in the film The Count of Monte Cristo where the hero Dantes is in prison holding his fellow prisoner, a former priest, as he is dying. The priest warns him: “God said, ‘Vengeance is mine.'” When Dantes replies, “I don’t believe in God,” the priest’s dying words are, “It doesn’t matter. He believes in you.”
What a comforting thought, and one that brings me hope for myself, as well as the two atheists I talked about so freely in this post. The Bible puts it this way, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Tim. 2:13) I have to believe that even when we struggle with our faith, and even if we reach the wrong conclusions, God doesn’t give up on us–even if we give up on Him. God hasn’t given up on my blogger friend, and never will.

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The In Between

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Categories: church, Meanderings (look it up)


It’s now the fourth Sunday morning since I concluded my position helping out with worship at my friends’ congregation…and although I’m enjoying the break, I find that surprisingly, I miss the routine somewhat. Even though my heart is ultimately drawn to a different form of expression (which is why that assignment wasn’t permanent), there’s something I miss about the weekly act of getting together.

That might seem a bit surprising, even contradictory, to those who have been following this blog for awhile, after all I’ve said here about institutional church and all. But when I look back, I realize that when I started this blog, I was leading a house church–which was still a regular weekly gathering. So this is really the first time since I started the blog that I’ve been without a regular gathering of the community of faith, institutional or not. That’s why it feels different to me. It’s this in-between place, between the types of community that I’ve been part of, and the one I will be part of.
The truth is, when you write a blog like this one, you tend to get baked into the same pie with others who might sound like you. I guess what I’m saying is that it’s sometimes assumed by the type of blog I write that (along with other misconceptions) I don’t believe in the gathering of the church in general, simply because I don’t promote the institutional forms of gathering. It’s assumed that I have some sort of doctrinal belief that Christians ought to stay home on Sundays and never do anything organized.
But if you have read the blog closely, and not through a set of mental filters, you’ll realize that isn’t true. I’ve never said we shouldn’t gather. The Scripture says not to forsake the assembling together; I haven’t torn that page from my Bible, and neither should you. Of course we’re supposed to get together. No–my issue has never been whether that should happen, but what it should look like. I don’t believe it’s appropriate to use that “don’t forsake the assembling” passage to guilt people into attending the form of church you think is best. I do believe it’s appropriate, even necessary, to keep that Scripture in our hearts, to let it guide us into community with one another, whatever that community looks like. I don’t think a gathering has to be institutional in order to fulfill the mandate to assemble. Hopefully that makes sense.
That being said, because of the blog, I’ve obviously become friends with a lot of people who are Christ-followers but aren’t currently engaged in a regular gathering with other believers. Some of these folks have been “outsiders” for several years, others for a few months. Some of them even believe it’s okay not to belong to a community, and have no plans to be in one. Many others, though, express a sense of loneliness and loss, because they actually want to be in community–they just feel sort of exiled because they can’t in good conscience belong to any of the traditional forms of gathering taking place around them. (That longing is actually what’s drawn many of us into the blogosphere, because at least we can find someone else online who has an inkling of what we’re feeling–and that’s actually drawn some of us into a sort of pseudo-community.)
For me, on the issue of gathering or not gathering, I actually don’t take a hard-line approach either way–and there’s one huge reason why. The answer is the title of this blog post: The In Between.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned along this journey, it is to take the factor of time into account. Faith and belief and practice are not on/off switches; God is interacting with all of us on a timeline, and we are all in between different points on that line. So how I see the world and the church today might change over time, as God changes my perspective through my interaction with Him, with others, and with the world. Same with you; same with anyone else.
What’s more–I believe God interacts with the church herself over time, and I believe the church right now is undergoing a huge “in between” moment. I think that’s why there are so many Christians right now who are having serious doubts and disillusionments about the form of church we’ve all been brought up with. But I don’t think it’s time to draw up doctrinal statements about whether or not we should “go to church” on Sundays just because a lot of people are feeling differently about it. I think we need to ride it out and see what God reveals over time. We’re not at a stopping point here; we’re in the In Between. I think we’re in the process of stripping off the extra baggage so we can rediscover what true community is like–but I don’t think we’re there yet, and I don’t trust anyone right now who claims to have a clear handle on it. Just because it looks a certain way now doesn’t mean it will look that way in a few years. It’s just too early to draw a clear conclusion on a lot of things.
So where am I at on the timeline? I’m fairly confident that the church, and the institution that has grown up around the church, are not one and the same–so I obviously don’t buy into the claim that Sunday morning gathering is the only way and method to assemble together. In other words, I’ve spent a lot of time the past few years getting a clearer understanding of what true community is not. 🙂 I’m now in a personal “in between” place, having released both my house church in Tulsa and the church where I was helping out with worship here, so I am in a position to re-discover, as it were. I see before me the seeds of a new community of faith–and a fresh expression of community–which I’ll probably elaborate on in future posts. I’m not in a huge hurry to form anything; rather, I want to look and listen, and see what is already forming around us, and be part of that. I still believe that we should gather; I’m just patient about exploring what that can look like–because I understand a lot more about the timeline.
For now, though, I’m in the In Between–just like so many of us are.

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The Promised Update

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Categories: it's all about me, Meanderings (look it up)

So last weekend I shared that I was feeling a bit convicted about keeping certain dreams of mine safely tucked into the future…and that to deal with that issue, I was going to set some specific goals for myself for 2011, and come up with a focused plan to meet those goals. For anyone who’s interested, here’s (some of) what I came up with. 🙂

Since much of my unfulfilled desire is in the area of music, I felt like I wanted to set two particular (and challenging) goals for this area:
  1. Be playing regular gigs around town by the end of the year.
  2. Record and release an instrumental album.
Surprisingly, the second goal is probably going to be easier to attain than the first, simply because I have the means of doing a simple recording myself, at home, without raising a huge amount of cash; and if I put it up for sale as download only, I can also spare the expense of printing CDs. This goal is primary to explore my options, and to get my creative juices flowing again.
The first goal is a bit more scary, and is going to take a lot more work than just making a few phone calls. For one thing, I have almost NO repertoire for playing gigs outside of a church setting. All I’ve written for nearly 20 years is worship stuff, and if I do this, I want to write my own material, not lean on cover tunes. So I’m going to have to devote some time and creative space to serious songwriting again. I’m going to have to find a practice space, because the apartment won’t cut it–and neither will the coffee shop. 🙂 I’m going to have to actually talk to my local music contacts and explain to them how a 40-something guy is going to start gigging for the first time, and how do I book venues? I’m also leaving options open to either join or start a band–I’m flexible with that, as long as I’m playing out regularly by the end of this year. That should at least let me know if this is a direction I want to go for the long term.
As for the mission part of it…well, if you’ve read this blog much, you’ll know that the mission part of it will pretty much take place as we go–through the interactions with people along the way. Interwoven into the fabric. My chance to really try and put into practice some of the things I’ve been philosophizing and platitude-ing about on this here blog for the past few years. I’ll let you know more about what that looks like as we go.
I’ve set a couple of other goals as well, but these two were by far the most interesting. 🙂 Also, I broke these goals down into some specific steps on a timeline, so they don’t just sit there as a vague cloud of hope, like they always have before. 🙂
Since the last two sentences ended with a smiley face, here’s a third one just to round it out. 🙂
I like what this process is doing for my outlook. It’s putting specific things in my path to look forward to (or be afraid of?) this year. I feel more ready for 2011.
I promise future blog posts will be on more interesting topics than what-I-did-over-Christmas-break. For now, thanks for indulging me.

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Goals and Focus

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Categories: Meanderings (look it up)

Welcome, 2011!

From all the chatter on the Interwebs-Facebook thingy, it seems a lot of people are glad to see 2010 go bye-bye. In my family, it’s a mix. The Wild One would probably consider this the best year of her life; The Director, who felt a bit stalled this year–not so much. For me, I’m right in the middle–not all bad, not all good–but overall, I felt the past year was good for me, even if it didn’t always feel so good. I spent most of last year in the struggle to find my place and get established in a new land–a year of deep transition, with both great victories and great disappointments. (Let’s just say I wasn’t bored.) But as long as I see forward movement, I’m okay with it, even if the pace of that movement tests my patience. I look back, and I see I moved in the right direction. Definitely more than I can say for the last place I lived. So I’m good. 🙂
All of that said, part of this past year was an inner thing for me–a time when I felt outward hindrances were not so much an issue, so I was left to deal with the inward ones, the barriers in my own soul that stop me from being who I am meant to be. Part of that soul-searching has included a painful realization that I make an awful lot of excuses for the things I still dream of doing that I haven’t done. All those dreams stay safely tucked into the future as long as I can say, “Someday soon” without making definite plans. I think I get subtly afraid of those dreams, because once I start bringing them closer to the present, I become somehow responsible for their success or failure. I can’t conveniently blame everything else for why they aren’t being fulfilled. 🙂 It’s always a risk. On one hand, I seem to be fully capable of taking risks (moving to Denver was a doozy, for example), but when it comes to your personal dreams, there’s more emotion and even identity tied to it. A bit harder to make the leap. But leap I must.
One reason The Wild One had such a good year is that she had a life coach who made her set goals and kept her accountable for her progress. She didn’t reach all her goals, but certainly made more progress than she would have done otherwise. Life coaching isn’t cheap, and we can’t all afford it (in fact, the life coach actually bartered with The Wild One for her services, which made it a real blessing). But the principles are applicable, and we’re all trying to learn from them. The Director has already set some very reachable goals for this year, which I think has already lifted his spirits a bit. And now it’s my turn.
So all that rambling on to say that this week, I’m going to be doing two very specific things: Setting goals and creating focus. What those very yuppie-like words mean is that I’m going to try to boil down my desires into some very tangible goals, share them with my family (and possibly some other trusted individuals), and let myself be accountable. I find that I move forward much more purposefully when I have a tangible goal to reach. The other thing I need to do is create focus, particularly with my time. For the first time in many years, I feel I have more to do than time in which to do it. If I’m going to make any progress toward those goals, I’m going to have to practice some time management. That means setting some time frames dedicated to doing certain things, which I will coordinate and synchronize with The Wild One’s also-full schedule. (Thank you, Google Calendar.)
I don’t know yet how much detail I’ll be sharing here about the goals I’m setting (no offense, but I don’t know most of you)–but for now, I can say that my desires and dreams center around two basic things: music and mission (with some overlapping between the two). And since I’ve gone to the trouble of telling you that I’m going to be setting goals and creating focus, I’ll report back here next week and let you know (just in case you’re interested) how I did. (How’s that for accountability?) 🙂
2010 is in the can. 2011 is here. What are we going to do this year to make the most of it?

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The Gig is Up

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Categories: Meanderings (look it up)

Hi, all…hope you all had a very Merry Christmas.

So Christmas Eve was my last official day at the church I’ve been helping out with worship for the past year and a half or so. Well, actually, technically speaking, I guess today is my last day…but I have one vacation day left, and I’m taking it today. Which is why I’m blogging right now instead of unloading gear. 🙂

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